Thursday, February 11, 2010

Better, I swear

Back in Argentina!

I got in on a deceptively beautiful Monday, and have been swimming in the humidity ever since! My first few days have been absorbed by writing a term paper I've been pointedly NOT writing for the past two months... But I have three hours left, and two pages to pad this puppy before my cousin Abby arrives and I have a ten day vacation!

We're doing the city today through Sunday evening, when we take an overnight bus to Mendoza. Three days in the wine country, another overnight bus to Bariloche for two days hiking in the lake district, and then back next weekend. What larks we'll have...

For those of you who don't yet know, I have a US number for Skype, so I can be called on my computer from a phone. Technology, you are awesome. Anyway, my number is (937)502-4321, and it even comes with voice mail!

I promise pictures from the AWESOME vacation on which I'm about to embark posted very soon! All my love!


Saturday, November 7, 2009

From Mad Hatters to Tea Parties

As promised, this is the second of three posts in reverse order about the last few weeks. The week before the Halloween party, my Mad Hatter Kelly and I had a tea party. Fitting, no?

Kelly teaches a bible study to kids grade 6-12 at the English-language church she attends out in the province of San Isidro, and had invited eight people other than her and I to have a slumber party in her studio loft, in secret hopes that I'd tell her she was being silly and she should just have it in the lovely new apartment that'll be the focus of my next post. She guessed right, and at about 4pm on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, we got on the train from Chinatown to San Isidro to pick up our girls.

There were a total of nine of us, four adults and five kids. The youngest girl was a fourth grader in Miss Joy's class (one of the chaperones and our Alice), and the oldest was a High School Senior. We hauled the kids onto the train, from the train station to the metro station, and from the metro station from my house. A bit stressful, but that's when the fun started.

We broke into groups to make a veggie tray, sandwiches for our tea, scones and lemon curd, and fruit salad for breakfast the next morning.

Over tea, we all shared our favorite part about being a girl, and giggled riotously while trying to guess what historical woman had been slapped on our foreheads. After dinner, we played a game of cranium on our food teams (Go Team Scone!), painted our fingers and toes, and cuddled into a mass to watch a chick flick before turning out lights. Our guests engineered my living room so that the seven guests could sleep downstairs and leave my double bed and loft for Miss Kelly and I. Blissfully, after a tiny bit of whispering, everyone passed out cold.

The morning was a bit of a blur of girls getting ready and packed up to go back to SI for church. I had some fruit salad, braided some hair, and then set in to write a policy memo assignment due the next day. Kell dropped back by to pick up bedding and furniture she'd brought over for the event, and the two of us did a quick once-over to put my house more or less back in order. I got the house clean just in time to start preparing for Halloween!

I was struck again by how much I love being with children, and how little I get to be myself here. Kelly laughed at my antics all NIGHT, and was SHOCKED to discover what a kook I am. That's pretty sad- we'd been friends for two months and this was the first time she got to see me cut loose??? More than other people seeing the real me, I gotta say I miss the real me!

I'm starting to tear myself loose in yoga, and I have kooky guests in two weeks followed by return to Kookland in five. Thank goodness. I don't know how much more serious I can stand.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Due to things beyond my control, the following three posts will be in reverse chronological order. I know, I'm confusing. I still haven't gotten photos from the sleepover, and the house hasn't quite recovered from Halloween weekend in order to be picture worthy. So! First thing's first: the Halloween party!

I got so sick of hearing that "Argentines don't DO Halloween." Well let me tell you something mister, I would do Halloween if I had to do it on the MOON. What started out as a quiet pumpkin carving party turned out to be a 30-person affair at which not one person carved a pumpkin. Turns out the big pumpkins we carve back home are only available down here in mid-winter (July), and when we decided to make it a costume party and BYOP with the mini-versions from the grocery store, everyone petered out on that one.

Not that we missed the carving. There was good music, a LOT of good food, and exactly the right number of people for the terrace party room and terrace. In fact, rather than say anything else about it, I'll let the pictures do the talking.

Here's me getting my Cheshire Cat hair and nails did, by my new exclusive hair lady and my number one Mad Hatter, Kelly.

Our final products. If you can't tell, we're Mad. It's probably from the spray paint hairspray fumes. I didn't have my grin in this one...

This is our (male) friend Manu, dressed as Eve, in the party room. It was the perfect place, and I had some great decorations thanks to Mom and Lara!

Kelly got a little artsy. Bats flying over the firepit full of votives.

Group shot. Unfortunately several people had already left or were holding cameras by this point, but you get the general idea. There are a million pictures, and I can post more upon request, but most of you have facebook, so you can see them there!

Regardless, it was great fun, and were it not memorable beforehand, it would have become extremely memorable to the last 13 of us. It got down to that number and the people other than me split down the middle - six decided to help clean up a bit, six ran for the elevator. The party room is on the tenth floor and you need a key to get out the front door, so Kelly offered to take a group down, and five people smashed into the elevator with her. Turns out that was a pretty bad idea, as the elevator reached the ground floor but the excess weight made the elevator floor sink below level with the floor, so the elevator door wouldn't open.

The encargado (super) couldn't be roused through banging, ringing, or yelling, and my landlord doesn't have a spare set of keys. So there were six people hyperventilating in the elevator and six more sitting on the steps for just under an hour at about 3am while I did stairs. I think we'd have had to call the fire department were it not for the fact that one of the people inside the elevator eventually tripped the safety latch in the doorjamb with a teaspoon, letting everyone out. Of course the elevator still didn't work for the rest of the night, so Kelly, Bret and I got to do the stairs one more time to get everything out of upstairs and back down to my apartment. Then it was just a 40 minute shower to get the purple out of my hair before a nice, early 5:30am bedtime. Needless to say, I did NOTHING on Saturday.

It was a good time. Met a couple cool new people, got to see a few people I hadn't seen in a while. Was left with horrific amounts of unhealthy leftovers and a war zone of a home I just finally started feeling like I could reclaim today. But it's Halloween, by which I mean, any and all efforts were well worth it.

Now I've just got three weeks before Ray and Ronda come to town and Thanksgiving! Something to which I can look forward, and three weeks to actually DO SOME SCHOOL WORK in the interim!

Hope you all had a wonderful, spooky, stomach-achingly sweet Halloween. All my love.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


I guess I should start at the beginning... of this weekend, of course.

Stayed in all day Friday, trying to get myself to work on this blasted paper. Having a hard time facing it. Just like I did with Memo #1 for my other class, for which I somehow got an A-. Thank God. Didn't get nearly as much done as I wanted on Friday, and I knew I was going shopping with Kelly Saturday afternoon, but I figured I'd have five solid hours between waking up and meeting her in Palermo Viejo around four... I figured...

There's a new girl in the program, Gaby. She's the baby of the program, having just finished college in May after starting school early as a kid. She's 21. GOODNESS. Her parents left on Friday night and I told her at lunch with Adam on Thursday that if she needed saving on Saturday, she should shout. I can't tell you how thankful I am that she called. I don't know why, but being able to get her out of the house on her Worst Day made me feel just a little bit better about having gone through mine completely alone. We went to my cafe two blocks from my house, and while we were sitting out in the bits of sun under the trees, we saw this absolutely ridiculous kiddy bus... I fail to understand. Maybe it was a sightseeing tour? But then why did it stop on the corner for ten minutes? My corner cafe is not a sight. Pretty sure. Gaby was shocked to see Spiderman in Argentina...but having seen some pictures from costume parties here, I can tell you, Spidey's not an uncommon choice here. (Note to self: Inform everyone no spidermen at your Halloween party.)

It was a nice afternoon. Spending too much money on accessories, eying bonsai trees in the market, having a coffee with Kelly on a terrace from which I took this picture. Gaby had to get home to run some errands, but I made my new chicken salad recipe for Kelly and then the three of us met up at a movie theater close to her house. We saw some ridiculous chick flick, but Kelly buried her head in my shoulder when she was embarrassed and we bought Gaby's ticket as a "Welcome to Argentina." I think it made her feel better, and she informed me we're definitely going latin dancing next weekend. Yay!

Another day of trying to work on my paper...went through readings to pull out quotes today, and wrote my introduction and a very basic outline. 20 pages by Wednesday, and I currently have 1.5. I was about to head to bed when I got an email from Evan, an old friend from Carnegie Mellon who is actually one of only four people who subscribe to this blog. Came out of NOWHERE. Subject line: This one is for you... clearly. No body to the email, just this bit of adorableness. And I confess, a lolcat made me cry.

Some of you have been really great through this. Chris, you and your family are AWESOME friends to my family, and it means so much that you guys haven't forgotten me. Matt Stewart sent me a message on Facebook this weekend because reading about G20 in Pittsburgh made him think of me. Katy, I know you read this, and you've been pretty good at keeping in touch, when I remember to sign on to skype... (Sorry!!)

But MAN. Guys? A lolcat made me cry because it was a little reminder that I wasn't forgotten. I've talked to Sarah what? Three times in as many months? Haven't talked to Jen once? Or Zack, you subscribed, but I haven't heard a peep. This whole doing-it-on-my-own thing would be easier if I felt like I had a support system back home. It would be easier not to be phased by the people in my program not liking me if I knew I had friends back home.

I don't mean to get all chain email on you guys, but you really don't know how what you do affects people. This email took him fifteen seconds, and it MADE my weekend. So do me a favor, as a person who doesn't forget people, and make an effort to reach out to someone you haven't thought of in a while today. Feeling forgotten ain't the hottest, and kittens are really cute.

Guess that's all I have to say.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Day Five -- Just Because It Was There

How hard it was to actually GET UP on Monday morning!! The life of a Porteño had become so comfy -- out late, up late....definitely not my normal life!! We descended on the bakery "Via Dolce" (Sweet Street) and each took a basket with tongs and picked out breakfast pastries. They all got wrapped up together, we hopped into a taxi, and rode to the pier. M and I with our tea, Al had his black thick coffee, devoured the pastries. Boarded the catamaran to Uruguay, slept for most of the journey honestly. Must have been that full belly thing.

When we disembarked both Al and I were suitably underwhelmed, but M seemed to know what she was doing, so we walked on. She had delivered the perfect trip so far, were we going to doubt her now? Ah, no. Reaching the tourist office we were attacked by very persistent and wily individual that wanted to direct us, and M very quietly guided us away. Thankfully so. We only had a few hours in paradise, and she knew best.

Ahead of us was the walled city of Colonia and we entered through the rocky gate. I don't see how that could have protected Colonia from much...but inside truly was a treasure. The frantic racetrack of Buenos Aires was behind us, and this little dusty silent town waited to be explored. Time was the enemy here, so we just got to glide along the surface, but for some reason that was ok too. The lighthouse was a little too high for climbing, so we admired from outside. Breakfast was all sugar so in dappled shade we had a picada - a tray of miscellaneous cheese, ham, olives and little hunks of bread -- just the ticket to soak in the square.

In and out of the shops was fun, but the leather shops were overwhelming to the senses! Being surrounded by that much animal that wasn't animal anymore was very strange. The smell was a bit intoxicating.... (what does that say about me???) We saw BA as a tiny speck on the horizon, that was funny to me, since she is SO overpowering in person. In your face, demanding of all your attention. Not in a bad way, mind you, but you've got to be on your game -- totally focused -- just to cross the street. But there she was, tinier than an ant. We ignored her.

We touched on the old town, the new town, didn't have time for the grand lunch by the coast that M had planned. Probably my only regret of the trip. (in a week of perfect, I can deal!!) However, weaving our way back to our boat, M left time for helado -- ice cream. It's shameful to call this ice cream, because it's absolutely the best I've had .... definitely since I was in Italy, and maybe better. Italy was almost 20 years ago, so memory blurs. Chocolate yum. I've read about limoncello, so I wanted to try that. Blecht! M had the idea of adding some agua con gas (bubbly water) and then it was just incredibly hard lemonade. That was ok. But limoncello -- unless this was really bad stuff, and I don't think it was -- what's the deal here?

Not sure we took a photo of the place we had ice cream (I think I was bubbly by then...) but it was SO picturesque, and the ice cream...well...sigh. My girl knows her stuff.

So in two and a half hours we're back at the flat, and I'm flat, as in 24 hours I'm gone...I've been pretty much a napless wonder for 2 days and THAT's not good...and we need a meal. Stinkpot calls the restaurant next door and plays the sick mom card, so basically we have room service in our flat. All the waiters line up to see this incredibly *bold* young woman pick up food and the head waiter pleads with Al to please bring the plates back. I have enough energy to wolf down a HEAVENLY dinner (except for the blood sausage that accidently got ordered -- oops!!) and collapse like a 'bunch of broccoli' onto the sofa for more girl snuggles. She HAS control of this crazy world, if she can make this happen! 'Please do not tell anyone -- I will lose my job if anyone finds out!', he said. Seeing M, they evidently all wanted to help carry the dinners, 'me, no me!' When 'Las Vulturas' had finished once again, Al returned the plates with M's thankyou note and a tip -- perfect ending to a perfect day.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Welcome to Spring

Hey everyone, it's me, Melanie. You know, the one who actually owns this blog! ;)

I know Mom has a post or two to add from their recent trip, but today was both the first day of Spring and the first day of classes en castellano. It was a heck of a Monday.

Actually, as my Spring resolution I decided to be better about taking pictures and about posting to this, so my pictures today are from yesterday. I decided I needed to have a LOT of fun yesterday to boost my spirits before classes started this week since I was (justifiably) very nervous at the prospect at taking grad-level courses in a foreign language.

So! I biked to La Recoleta on Sunday to check out their feria (market) which is supposed to be much more craftsy and hippyish than San Telmo. It was an incredible sunny day, a bit warmer than the forecast had predicted else I'd have worn a tank top and tried to get a little white into my blue skin. Along the way, I was regaled with the hilariousness of a whole horde of clowns close to the children's hospital in Palermo. I almost went over to ask if I could join up, until I realized the joy I'd feel being a clown would probably be outweighed by standing at intersections trying to get money. They were all over, and if I'd gotten my camera out sooner, I'd have caught all three of these standing in a row eating sandwiches and scratching their hats. As it is, I barely got my camera turned on when the light turned green, so I took this picture blind. I actually feel kind of bad - the one really looks like she wants me to come over and, well, give her money. Bad me.

My new friend (praise God) Kelly met me close to the cemetery, and we spent over four wonderful relaxing sunny hours. We had awesome salads in the sun at a nearby restaurant, and then proceeded to search the market for all the things we need. We found NONE of them, but came away with things we most certainly didn't need, nevertheless. I got birthday presents for Mom and Lara, and even got something for myself! I know, our birthdays aren't until January and February, but when you see something here, you buy it. I've learned that one the hard way. I just hope I run back into some of the things I've seen and passed up... More than what we got, though, it was just a great day getting out and meeting people, including Flora. She sat facing away from the crowds, facing her daddy in his booth. Her sign says, "Don't bother. I'm resting." Too cute. When we had done enough damage for one day, we got fruit salad covered in fresh pressed orange juice and sat on a hill listening to some live music.

Maybe it was the good mojo from yesterday, but today went much better than I'd expected. I had a Spanish class in the morning, and had a bit of a rough and stressy afternoon, but then biked down to Tribunales to pick up readings and sit in the computer lounge reading and looking up words on google translator. Ran into the new girl, seemed nice! And then class started and something AMAZING happened. I understood a lion's share of what was said! By our 8:30 break, I was pumped up on endorphins and gleefully told the other Americans that I understood 85% of what was being said, and Holly's response was, "Yeah, he talks really clearly." Plblblblblb. I guess it's a good word of caution, I still have two more professors to meet, and I doubt I'll be so lucky as to have three professors that don't swallow their words. They openly discussed the fact that Holly invited all of them but not me to dinner in front of me, and they all went out to get a drink together after class without inviting me, but I'm glad they didn't. Got lost on my way home and biked through a good portion of Recoleta and (I think) a bit of Belgrano before finding my way. It was great. Hooray endorphins!

Regardless, I know some of you were interested in seeing how day one of classes went, and hey: clowns and cats. What more can I say.

Love you all.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Day Four -- Market Day

Thankfully M is staying at the flat with us, making life more simple for all. And the late night snuggles for me are priceless. We are birds of a feather. Getting up on Sunday morning had me moving as fast as I could. Today was San Telmo! I'd read about this market, and M had told me all about it too. My pulse was rapid, and I was ready! We started the morning with scones that Lara sent us -- quite a decadent way to start the day, then into the taxi. That, by the way, is truly taking one's life into ones hands.

I digress to discuss life in a taxi. How these people do not die on a daily basis (redundant??) is a grand mystery to me. The road could be 2 lanes, or 9 lanes across and there will be more taxis than the street can hold (they are tiny) and they drive like lunatics on crack. Or speed. Some sort of illegal substance. Maybe Mate. I never did get the chance to try this, tho I did ask for it once and oooh the look I got. Is it not served on Sunday? Add in the machismo that surrounds them like an aura and insanity is not a strong enough word. I didn't see accidents tho. They zip and they zag and will actually bump the driver infront of them if displeased, and honk ALL the time!! We decided it is the 'taxi toot'. I couldn't figure out why they honk -- there were a couple of rational toots I saw, but honestly. I think it's just for fun. In Israel the honking seemed just an extension of the conversation, but not here that I could see. I think it may be one of the 'just cuz' items in the world. To keep tourists like me from settling back in and enjoying the ride? That may be it!!

We arrived safe and sound however, and ready to shop. San Telmo is not just a shopping paradise -- we saw clowns on stilts, and so many other amazing street performers. The tango dancers older than time were there! M said they were famous, because they'd gone to the market every Sunday to dance for years. Apparently their picture is even on a postcard! Younger versions were there, but I still thought the old couple were darling, and the fact that the lady could still dance in heels on the cobblestones at an unknown age was quite impressive. I think that just about anything you could dream of would be on these streets.

We wandered out of the throng of tourists in search of 'meat on a stick' for lunch. Anthony Bourdain, the travel wise-apple from TV always says find where the locals buy their produce, then find where THEY buy their lunch. It may not have been as authentic as it could have been, but the cheap plastic chairs, beer by the liter, grilled chorizo with chimichurri sauce on top of sliced baguette at the rickety aluminum table right outside the produce market -- well it was heavenly.

We dove back into the fray and bolstered ourselves with that darkest and most delightful of coffees when necessary. One of the places had a true Argentine peacock. I don't know what else to call him. Of course Al was escorting two North American beauties -- but this guy was a hoot. Easily 65 -- shaved head, but with hmmmm....a shark's tooth around his neck? Maybe a wild boar's tooth? That and the gold chains, and shirt unbuttoned half way down, as the seriously machismo'd do... When we arrived he was facing away from us, and by the time we left he was practically -- well. It was silly. And it's a sad day for the peacocks of the world to lump them in with him. This was where I asked for the Mate and got the frosty look. It was on the menu, but being a silly tourist I don't know the protocol. It's not illegal...but I think in the states it would be. Ask me no more!!

But, we hung in there until the end, staying until the Brazilian drummers rolled up the streets at 6. What a site! Everyone within hearing distance dancing, and the drummers, young and old so proud. The sites, sounds, smells -- SO very much fun!! Thank you Melanie!! Another fun day!!